80k supporter update - bout 2 review and bout 3 plans

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Brenton Mayer

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Aug 11, 2021, 6:28:04 AMAug 11
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Hi everyone,


It’s Brenton here. I work on 80k’s impact evaluation and other internal systems. I’ll be writing most of these updates from here on, but Ben will still share some of his thoughts in the ‘Note from the CEO’ section you can read below. 


This is an update on our progress over bout 2 (14th April - 4th July). See our previous update here


Progress in brief: During this bout we released our career planning course and delivered 178 one on one advising calls - the highest figure on record. We released a podcast on having a successful career with mental health issues, which has become our most listened to episode. 


We’re looking for help finding EA-minded job candidates with the following backgrounds:


  • Marketing. 

  • Product management. 

  • Writing for a popular audience. 

  • Copy-editing for a popular audience. 


Please see the ‘Helping us hire’ section below for details if you might know someone like this. 


A note from the CEO

Hi everyone,


I’ve been pleased with the growth in podcast listening time & the recent episodes, the growth of vacancy clicks on the job board, and the number of calls done by the one-on-one team – which have exceeded our stretch targets.


One challenge we face as an org is that we’re behind on our hiring targets – see the ‘Staffing updates’ section below for details.


I think the biggest challenge we face is getting web readership growing again, especially because the size of the pool of web readers is a bottleneck on the other programmes.


For that reason, (besides management) I’ve been focusing on marketing, working with the web team to make the website more engaging, and helping to create a web content ‘machine’ that can create and promote content. Some of the main things I worked on in the quarter:



We were approached by a show on BBC Radio 4 and I recorded the interview last week. I also recorded podcasts with Spencer Greenberg, Hear This Idea and Superdatascience as practice. It’ll be a 25min show focused on 80,000 Hours, and airs at 9am Tue 17th August, just after the UK’s most popular radio show (The Today Programme). So it could be one of our biggest pieces of media for some years.


A reader story


Sam Bankman-Fried secured a $900m deal in July which Forbes estimates will bring his net worth to $16bn. The FT claims he’s the richest person under 30 in the world. 


(Sam isn’t formally counted as a plan change, but I think we did have some influence on his career. You can read more in our updated writeup of his story.)


Sam’s success has prompted me to think more about how funding constrained the EA community is and how that should affect our strategy. 


I now estimate that around $46bn of funding is committed to effective altruism, and there are about 7,400 engaged members.


This means the absolute size of the funding overhang has probably increased dramatically since 2015. This is not only due to Sam – Open Philanthropy and other donors have grown dramatically too. That means there’s a greater than ever need for (i) people with ideas for how to spend lots of funding effectively (ii) people able to run big projects (iii) grantmakers. See more here


Over the next bout, I’ll continue to focus on making the site more engaging e.g. making edits to the front page and key ideas, in order to prepare for future media and marketing.


‘til next time, 


Ben




Metrics


Finances

Note that all figures are approximate. 


Cash reserves (end April 2021)

$9,863,191

Average monthly costs over last 6 months (end April 2021)

$205,461

Cash reserves divided by 6 month average of costs

48

Months’ runway (rough estimate based on expansion budget, including commitments to donate, as of end April 2021)

29.4



Staffing updates

We’re behind on our hiring targets. Our current best guess is that as of Dec 2022 we will have increased FTE by 5.5 net above our Dec 2020 baseline of 15.3. 


In our annual review, our median projection was an increase of 10.25 FTE. We changed how we measure this, so that projection would now be 8.75, but that still means we’re behind by 3.25.


This is disappointing. The most important factors were:


  1. We lost more senior staff capacity than expected, with Peter McIntyre and Peter Hartree leaving (as covered in previous updates). They were both managers and could have helped with hiring otherwise. 

  2. We made the estimates before completing the management restructure, so they were not made by the people who are currently in charge of hiring. 

  3. The previous plan was probably overoptimistic.


Our long term goals about how many people to hire haven’t changed, it’s just we expect it’ll take longer to get there. Some steps we’ve taken in response:


  1. We reassessed how much to prioritise hiring.

  2. We’ve started to track net change in hires at each all hands and in each of these updates as a key lead metric, to make it clearer that it’s a top priority.

  3. The internal systems team is experimenting with providing recruiting capacity to other teams, initially with Sash helping Arden hire a marketer.



Current staffing

# of salaried employees end of May 2021 (FTE, excluding freelancers)

14.8

Freelancers

3 (1.15 FTE)



Staffing lead metric


This metric tracks when people choose to join/leave, rather than their actual start/end date, so it’s a more timely indicator. The data points on the graph represent Peter Hartree reducing his hours, Alex Lawsen deciding to join, and Peter McIntyre deciding to leave (all discussed in previous updates). 


Helping us hire


We’re looking for EA-minded people to fill any of the following positions:


A head of marketing to help us double our readership and to be the founding member of our marketing team. 


We’re most interested in people who have worked in marketing before, but we’re open to other relevant backgrounds. We’d also consider hiring someone more junior, who could take on more senior responsibilities over time. If you know anyone who might be a good fit, please send them either the Marketer or Head of Marketing job description.


We’d like to hire a product manager to aim to double vacancy clicks on the job board, and to explore more ambitious visions for it, such as more personalisation. If you know a product manager or someone with the skills needed to develop a product like this, please suggest them here and we may reach out once we have drafted a job description.  


We’re collecting expressions of interest for writers with pre-existing experience writing for the public. If you know of anyone, please send them this expression of interest


We’re looking for a copy-editor to help upload posts, add graphics, proofread, and potentially take on more substantial editing and research assistant work. This position can be done remotely and part-time. If you know anyone, please send them this forum post


Updates by program

Web

Bout 2 review

Priority: Complete 8 jobs primarily aimed at improving engagingness of site and marketing. 


Priority: Hiring. 

  • Created job descriptions for 2 marketer positions & an experienced writer position, created and administered work samples for writers, and decided to trial two candidates. 

  • Our target was to make an offer to a marketer, which we missed. 


Other notes:


Bout 3 plans

  1. Grow web capacity by hiring and onboarding. (Target: 2 offers and 1 successful onboarding. Stretch: 2 accepted offers.)

  2. Improve stage 2 of the funnel (i.e. grab more of the target users who land on the site by improving landing pages, CTAs, and site appearance). (Target: 5 jobs aimed at this. Stretch: 7 jobs.)

Podcast

Bout 2 review

Priority: Release podcasts. 

  • Released an average of 134 minutes per week (vs. a target of 111 mins).


Releases:

  1. Pardis Sabeti on the Sentinel system for detecting and stopping pandemics

  2. Max Roser on building the world's best source of COVID-19 data at Our World in Data

  3. Tom Moynihan on why prior generations missed some of the biggest priorities of all

  4. Robert Wright on using cognitive empathy to save the world

  5. Having a successful career with depression, anxiety and imposter syndrome

  6. Leah Garcés on turning adversaries into allies to change the chicken industry

  7. Christian Tarsney on future bias and a possible solution to moral fanaticism

  8. Mike Berkowitz on keeping the U.S. a liberal democratic country


Bout 3 plans

Release 111 mins of podcast episodes per week. 

Job board

Bout 2 review

Priority: Streamline job board processes (aiming for 2 milestones). 

  • 1 completed milestone: produce clear policies and materials to respond to requests (the requests primarily from people who would like their organisation’s roles listed). 

  • 1 arguably completed milestone: implement a set of database automations and design improvements that further speed up job board updates.

  • 1 incomplete milestone: begin work with vacancy evaluators for global poverty, factory farming, and climate change. (Paused at ~70% completion due to complications introduced by work on new job board vision.)


Other updates:

  • The job board moved from the web team onto Niel’s team in order to free up Arden’s capacity. (Niel also manages the one on one team.)

  • We worked on a new more ambitious vision for the job board, decided to invest more heavily in the product and to hire a product manager. 

  • We tracked 38,600 vacancy clickthroughs (45% above 2020 year-to-date levels). 


Bout 3 plans

Work on hiring a product manager. 


Complete 2/4 of the following:

  • Draft enough process documentation to allow someone with access to the relevant systems to run a job board update.  

  • Create a long-term sustainable curation strategy (including curating more problem areas). 

  • Streamline vacancy identification. 

  • Roll out planned communications improvements. 

One on one team

Bout 2 review

Priority: Deliver 146 advising calls.  

  • Delivered 178 calls. 


Priority: Hire an adviser. 

  • Made one candidate an offer (which was the target). 


Priority: Ensure we have enough people to advise: 

  • Increased rate of tier 1 leads from ongoing sources to a peak of 878 (vs. a  goal of 750), though it has subsequently dropped off and finding more leads will be a priority for us during the next bout. 


Priority: Improve our tech systems to support the growing team. 

  • Migrated our data from Zoho to Salesforce, which was our target. Missed our stretch target to also migrate our processes. 


Other updates:

  • Habiba has now done >250 calls in the first half of this year, which is more than any previous 80,000 Hours advisors have completed in a full calendar year.  

  • We are currently experimenting with doing more 1on1 calls with people who are more involved in the EA community and people who are still in undergrad or high school. We are also experimenting with doing more repeat calls with advisees.  

  • We have done 14 mini-hunts, sending hiring managers leads for roles at places like Anthropic, Kevin Esvelt's lab as well as some parts of the US and UK governments.  


Bout 3 plan

  1. Increase annualised applications from ongoing sources to 1644 (measured by 4 week moving average at the end of the quarter). 

  2. Deliver 121 advising calls. 

  3. Onboard Alex Lawsen. 

Internal systems

Bout 2 review

Priority: hire a part time operations associate (mostly to work on the office). 

  • We ran a hiring round and hired our top candidate, someone who had worked in a similar role at a startup before. Unfortunately, they didn’t work out and we let them go in their second week. 

  • We then made an offer to our second top candidate who has been working out well. They work 18 hours/week. 


Priority: formalise internal policies/processes and transfer their ownership from the CEO to Brenton. 

  • Completed 10 projects (vs. a target of 10), including a revision to our meeting processes and two updates to our HR systems. 


Priority: improve the office. 

  • Completed 10 projects (vs. target of 6). 


We also started experimenting with adding recruiting capacity to the team, so have been working with Arden on hiring a marketer. 


Bout 3 plans

  1. Help web team recruit a marketer, aiming to make an offer. 

  2. Mini-hiring round for an internal systems generalist, aiming to make an offer (60% probability, as may not find a candidate to hire in the limited time we’re allocating for hiring). 

  3. Improve 6 team processes, including revising annual review prep, location policy, and our onboarding process. 

  4. Complete 14 office improvement projects. 



That’s all for this update, 


Brenton

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